By Ariel Messman-Rucker
At a time when Bella Lugosi, Lon Chaney Jr. and Boris Karloff were taking over the silver screen for Universal Studios, Evelyn Ankers was staring opposite them. But while the men playing the monsters are still household names, few remember those of the leading ladies who screamed their hearts out for audiences across the country.
What Fay Wray was to audiences in the 1930s, Ankers was in the 1940s. Between 1936 and 1950 she made over 50 films, including over a dozen horror flicks. She earned the title “The Queen of the Screamers” because of the sheer number of horror films she starred in and because of her ability to let out blood curtailing screams on cue—a talent I wouldn’t mind having.
In the early days of horror the genre power house Universal Studios produced some of the most iconic monster movies ever created, including films featuring Frankenstein’s monster, the Invisible Man, the Mummy, Dracula and the Wolf Man. Ankers played the leading lady in many of these, and while the screaming characters she played wouldn’t be considered feminist icons, she made a living in a male dominated industry (especially at that time) for over a decade—which is pretty cool.
Ankers acted with all the greats of the genre and although she was competing for screen time against frightening monsters covered in awesome early special effects makeup, she held her own. When Ankers is on screen you can’t help but watch her. After getting her start as a horror heroine in the Abbott and Costello horror comedy Hold that Ghost, Ankers went on to star in The Wolf Man, The Ghost of Frankenstein, Son of Dracula, The Invisible Man’s Revenge and a slew of other memorable titles.
My father grew up watching the Universal monster movies and he passed his love of them on to me, helping to shape my childhood and my obsession with horror and because of this Ankers and her costars hold a special place in my heart.
While she may be a bit of a mystery to most, Ankers screamed her way to top billing along side horror royalty, playing a huge role in many genre films and for that she has earned a place among the rest of our Diabolical Dames.